Shouting at God

Prayer has been coming up a lot lately. I’ve seen a fair amount of people recently who have told me how they have been shouting at the Lord of Hosts. It would seem counter-productive to walk into a throne room and begin railing against the King on His throne… and here on earth, the response would be quick, relentless retribution for such insubordination.

Despite this, we see examples of harsh conversations between God and His servants. Abraham bargained for the lives of Sodom and Gomorrah, using God’s own justice as the basis for his argument. Moses confronted God, using God’s own faithfulness as the basis for not scrapping the Israelites and continuing the covenant through Moses. David and the other psalmists wrote poems which sound almost like scathing indictments of God’s lack of action, one in particular ending on a profoundly distressing note. (Psalm 88)

In many of these cases, there is a sense of protest that is often found in poetry and music written by the oppressed and marginalized. And, truly, if any people have felt the sting of those titles, the Jews have. So often we see ourselves as less than worthy to approach the throne, let alone to make any kind of protest, formal or otherwise. We forget that God has called us His children. As children, we have a right, no, a responsibility to bring our complaints and protests to our Father, our God and King. He would much rather hear the complaints from our own mouths than have us carry around a sullen silence. Now, does that mean that our complaint will be addressed immediately or in the way we want? No. But it does mean that our complaint has been heard. It does mean that the One who is capable of far more than we could ask or imagine is listening and will answer. (Remember, even Job received a response from God… It wasn’t what he wanted, but Job got the audience he requested.)

We’ve heard recently about the official dissent channels in American government that give employees in certain departments the ability to have disagreements with the administration while still protecting their status. We have that same ability. Prayers, questions, complaints, and general frustration, and even doubt will not change God’s view of us as His precious creations.

Prayer is a many faceted aspect of our relationship with God. We should take advantage of our direct connection to Him. The Bible is full of stories where this direct connection was rewarded with an answer. Again, the answer may not be what was wanted or when it was wanted, but the answer came in good time.

Is there something you have been holding onto in sullen silence? Is there something frustrating you or giving you grief? Take it to the throne? Walk in with confidence that your Heavenly Father will listen, understand, and will answer. But always be ready for an unexpected answer.

How does your prayer life model a good relationship with God for your kids? Do your kids see you pray? When? How do your prayers illustrate how we should pray?

Photo Credit: Shouting | by simiant via Flickr


Waiting on Expecting

There are a few things that a person needs to have to work with kids: a deep love for children, infectious curiosity, an encouraging heart, and abiding patience. I would also suggest that perhaps a smidgen of insanity never hurts, but too much insanity leads to enjoying middle and high school age students. (Sorry, for those that aren’t familiar, Children’s and Youth ministers have inside jokes about who’s more responsible and which group is actually crazier.)

Anyway, our culture has very little patience for waiting. Most of us pay an extra fee every year just to get free two-day shipping from Amazon. We’ve bought Keurig machines to give us nearly instantaneous coffee. And I have even seen some people get frustrated with a microwave being too slow. Regardless, instant gratification is in our culture and there is very little in the way of media to combat it. In fact, it may be getting worse. Before Netflix and Hulu, we would have to wait a whole week for a new episode of our favorite show, but now entire seasons are dropped at once and the binge can proceed with vigor!

Which brings us to just how many stories in the Bible are about waiting. Abraham and Sarah wait not only for their promised child, but also the promise of a permanent home, and land. Jacob and Rachel wait not only for a child, but for their permanent home as well, Jacob dying in a foreign land. Moses waits patiently for years for freedom and the promised land, and dies before reaching it. David waits for years to become king until the previous king, Saul, passes away. The prophets wait anxiously for God’s rescue and for Israel’s repentance. The exiles wait in sorrow for the return to Jerusalem, and then for the ultimate end of exile when God comes to rule. And now, in that same vein, Jesus’ followers are also now waiting in the now-and-not-yet of the Kingdom’s arrival when God will set everything right again.

As we can see, there is a long tradition of waiting on the Lord. God takes the long view and has impeccable timing. He also often works in unexpected ways and at unexpected times. Isaac is not the firstborn, but the youngest who inherits the Covenant blessing of family and land. Joseph and Benjamin are the youngest of Jacob’s children, but Joseph ends up saving the entire family by going through a waiting period of suffering. Moses is able to experience God’s faithfulness, and, for those of us who’ve read the Gospel accounts, stands in the Promised Land alongside Elijah the prophet and Jesus. David becomes a king whose kingdom is established forever. Israel does repent and returns to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple and the walls.

At every stage the accounts end with a possibility, a new beginning. The story itself is still being written, still working out from those possibilities through those who are open to God’s presence and guidance.

And all of this gives me hope in my own waiting. Some of the first things my wife and I threw at each other while dating were the number of children and their names. (We were an odd couple, and still are. I won her over by being able to make tea in my dorm room and having a Tim Burton movie on standby. Mama always did call me special.) My wife and I knew we wanted kids, and we made sure we waited long enough to have put down some roots. But apparently we weren’t finished waiting. We haven’t received the blessing yet, but we are both hopeful. With each disappointment, each turn of an unfavorable diagnosis, we dig down a little deeper into God’s faithfulness. I hold onto the promises to Abraham, Isaac,  and Jacob, the blessings they received and God’s faithfulness to each. I know that my story hasn’t ended, and I can have hope by remembering God’s story.

Whatever you’re waiting on, hold fast to God’s faithfulness. Continue watching, because, your prayer may be answered in unexpected ways. A child might be dropped at your doorstep, or a foster child may enter your life. You may end up being called “mom” by young people you’ve influenced all over the world through the internet. And, yes, I’m using a lot of child talk here, but it applies across the board. What you expect and what God brings your way are often very different. You might do something crazy like fill out an application you expect to be rejected and find yourself on a plane to China. You just never know.

What are you waiting for? Are your eyes and mind open to what unexpected answer you might receive? Resurrection was unexpected, and still is, so that’s our bar for what to watch out for as we pray and wait!

Isn’t that God’s job?

Ok, by now you know this is opinion blog, so this’ll be the last time for a while I make one of these hedging statements. This is opinion and thoughts that have been bouncing around in my own head and may or may not be helpful.

Ok, so one question asked by people who doubt has bothered me for quite a while: “Why doesn’t God just do something about _________ if He’s so powerful?” And, really, for a long time, I had no idea how to answer that. Up until recently, I would usually turn with that person, look to God in prayer and say, “Yeah… that guy does have a point. What are you gonna do about that?” Maybe not the most respectful, but I recently heard Os Guinness – a Christian and social philosopher and activist – who pointed back to Genesis.

Genesis 1.26, 28 (JPS):

“And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. They shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on the earth.’ […] God blessed [the humans] and said to them, ‘Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on the earth.”

I don’t know about you, but I often see this passage tossed about in sermons about marriage and its purpose, but I rarely hear anyone go any farther. That whole bit about “master the earth” and “rule the animals” seems to get swept under the rug. In other words, God created the world and then, in His love and wisdom, created humans (us) and gave us the charge to take care of the whole lot. Bit of a task…

It goes without saying (or maybe not) that God can and does directly interact with His creation even today, performing miracles of healing and provision. He also continues to charge us with the task of performing that healing and performing acts of provision for others. So often we like to take a all-or-nothing approach to what we should do. Some Christians feel like God is distant and expecting us to create heaven on earth on our own, while others feel like God is directly interacting and we need to stand back and let him work. And I agree with parts of both sides. I see that God is near and interacting and also expects us to do what we can.

When we seek first the Kingdom, the service, love, and actions that spread the message of Jesus the King, everything else will be added. The parable of the soils shows that receptive soil produces a harvest a hundred times what was sown. Consider your own efforts – if God is working in them your efforts will produce results beyond anything you could imagine.

I also have issues with people who use what they see as God’s inaction as a weapon. I see these people have incredible faith in science and the progress of human development. But, really, the issues and problems they see in the world could have been solved if humanity would have been taking its role of caretakers and rulers seriously instead of investing so much time into creating better ways to kill or injure one another. Just consider how much farther along medical science would be if we pumped as much into that as into weapon development over the past 2000 years or more.


We have to strike a balance between trusting God to handle and multiply our own efforts, as large or small as they may be, and striking out boldly against things like poverty, oppression, violence, hatred, and the like. God has charged us as his children, as inheritors of a mighty kingdom, to take responsibility for ourselves, and the world around us.


How does your family handle responsibility? Do your children have chores or activities that are their responsibility? How do you handle when people fail to take care of their responsibilities?

A Quick Guide to Apologetics

For over a year now, I’ve been listening to a fantastic podcast called “Unbelievable?” produced by Premier Christian Radio in Britain hosted by Justin Brierley. The show focuses on discussions between two viewpoints, often Christian and non-Christian in order to create a space to think through issues relating to life and spirituality. And I have learned one gigantic thing about the way we do apologetics. (Apologetics is the defense of a belief, often used for defense of Christian belief.)

But are you ready for an in-depth explanation of how to make your apologetic efforts more effective?

Here it is:

Talk less.

Unimpressed? Maybe. But what I’ve noticed about the way Christians have been trying to change culture and defend their faith is that the method used is often debate. Debates, from my experience, usually end in talking over one another and shouting past one another in an effort to defeat the opponent one has been practicing against. Debate rarely ends well for either party. (Though, I have heard some very civil, polite exchanges on the podcast… fewer than I’d like, though.)

So how did Jesus defend his actions? Well, be asking questions and getting to the root of the problem others had with him and his ministry. It’s kind of a joke now in many Christian circles, but Jesus often answered questions with questions. The wisdom he showed in asking a question that made the interrogators stop and rethink their own presuppositions is still available.

While we have much teaching of Jesus and the apostles, we have as much or more of their actions. How did Jesus start many of his teaching sessions? With healing and care of the poor and oppressed. How did Paul or Peter get a crowd to share the good news that Jesus is King? By healing and care of the poor and broken.

While I can see some value in having an in depth response to the teleological debate, the debate on cosmology, or an answer to evolutionary biology, a better response may be: “I was once selfish and broken, and now Jesus has changed and healed me to better love and serve others.”

Our actions will often add more force to our words than the cleverest response. What actions do you and your family use to show how Jesus has changed you? What makes your family different in a way that shows others that Jesus is King in your home?

When will I finally know everything?

So, as I approach the age of thirty, I have been asking myself a simple question: is that when everything’s going to finally make sense? So far, as I’ve interviewed people who have reached thirty and lived to tell the tale, the answer was “no.” So I reached farther and asked people at forty and fifty… and they didn’t feel like they had finally “made it” either.

That leaves me standing here with a ton of unanswered questions feeling inadequate because I can’t answer every question nor can I state with confidence that I “have it all together.” I show up on Sunday as the ordained, degreed minister and look into the eyes of children and wonder, “How do I possibly teach these impressionable young humans and help them experience God’s amazing love?” (Answer: humbly, by modeling love and grace in how I act)

Interestingly, Job helps me out on this one. Near the end of the book named after a long-suffering man, God begins grilling him, asking questions like, “Where you there when I created all of this stuff? Did you make creatures that can move? Can you understand the deep mysteries of life?” And, like Job, I sit silently shaking my head in awe.

I hear about survey after survey about parents who are unsure about how to talk about faith topics at home. I get it, it can be nerve-wracking. And, yet, it doesn’t have to be. As a parent, you don’t have to know everything when you dive into the Bible with your children. You can uncover and explore right along with your children! Is there a question you can’t answer? Look into it together. Go ask someone, or read up on the many resources available online or at your local church.

When dealing with children, we’re not expected to have all of the answers. Instead, let’s focus on being present and humble enough to pray, discover, and worship together.

Have you ever felt ill-equipped to talk about faith at home? What did you do? What are some ways you and your family can explore the Bible and faith together?

The Most Terrifying Answer to Prayer

Prayer is a concept that I think has lost its meaning over the centuries in churches. I say that as a grand hyperbole, but on an individual level, I’m certain I’ve only heard a few prayers in the past year that struck me as being truly God-centered.

What do I mean by that? Well, I mean that the purpose of prayer, in some ways isn’t to simply have our needs heard. As the people of God and followers of Jesus, prayer is supposed to be outward focused and centered on God and His mission. (Reminded of this by Paul Bradshaw in Reconstructing Early Christian Worship.) Sure, Jesus even instructs us to ask for the things we need, but the first thing he has us do in his example is pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

When we pray, do we include the homeless person right down the street? Do we include those trapped in an oppressive system of poverty? Do we include those women and men being trafficked for labor or prostitution in the US and abroad? Do we include the President and government officials? Do we include the refugees in the Middle East who remain in fear of another extremist attack from people supposedly of their own faith? Do we pray for persecuted Christians and other minorities around the world?

If you do, you’ve probably received the most terrifying answer to prayer: “Go. I send you.”  Nothing is more striking or anxiety inducing that hearing that answer after praying about the problem of poverty in our city. And yet, nothing is more encouraging or exciting than hearing that answer, either. I mean, think about it: the great God of Creation and Resurrection just hand-picked you to be a part of the mission he has of restoring the world he created. (Insert sound of mind exploding here.)

In that moment when your praying about making sure that homeless people are warm during the winter and your child says, “We’ve got some extra coats in the closet,” how will you respond? When you’ve been praying about feeding the homeless and your child points someone out, what will you do? You actions will determine how your child prays and responds to prayer throughout their life. Be ready when your family receives the most terrifying answer to prayer.

Be Ready with an Answer

“[…] Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” I Peter 3:15b

The news has been quite busy lately… coincidentally, so have I. With VBS in full swing at the moment and camp not too far away, my plate has been a smorgasbord on its own. I’ve also been studying some Mandarin Chinese for kicks and giggles and studying up on Chinese history in my (albeit small) free time.

All that to say: the news has snuck up on me. FIrst of all, we have had a whole bunch of racism in the news lately. As a white middle-class man, I am probably the least qualified to speak on the subject, but let’s be frank. We are all different. We are all made in the image of God. We live in a broken world, with a broken society, and a broken system of privilege. We, as a people, a nation, and a world humanity have written ourselves into a corner. It will take a great deal of effort to break out of this prison of pain, frustration, and brokenness. Thankfully, we have a big God that reminds us about how we should tackle this.

First, we should recognize privilege where it does happen. It does. Once we’ve recognized it, those of us who have it should work to wean ourselves off of it. This sounds like a huge step, and it is. Consider Jesus who, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but took on the very nature of a servant and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Our model should be Jesus who had every privilege, but gave them all up in order to share in the lives of others. As many people in the past have said, Jesus has already modeled the best life. Follow him and we will begin to build heaven on earth.

Have you talked to your kids about race? Have they asked questions? How do you as a parent deal with it? Where do you see hints of racism in your own life?

Secondly, and this is another huge topic I’m going to try and fit in as few words as possible. The Jenner debate. regardless of what you call the Jenner clan member currently in the news, it will probably come up in conversation, especially if you have an older child.

Post after post have argued one way and the other on many different sides of the divide. Here’s what it boils down to. Are you ready? If you are a Christian looking at this issue you have to wrestle with Scripture. God still speaks through the Bible, and you must be ready with an answer that you can find contained therein. As a parent and a Christian, you need to make sure that you are soaking in the life of Jesus and in the story of our big God daily.

We often try to argue people into a relationship with Jesus. Not once do I see Jesus do anything of the sort. If he wants a relationship, he begins a conversation. He looks for a need and meets it. He peers into the deepest, darkest recesses of the human being in front of him and finds what that person most truly needs – which is usually companionship, purpose, truth – and he gives it to them in the context of relationship. Jesus’ actions speak loudly. He turns expectations on their head and when he’s asked why he’s doing, whatever it is he’s doing, he’s ready with an answer. “There was a shepherd who had 99 sheep and lost one…” “There was a woman who had 10 silver coins and lost one…” “There was a man who had two sons…” “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…” Cryptic, strange, thought-provoking.

Whoever does the asking, brothers and sisters, whether it be your kids, neighbors, coworkers, or passersby, be ready with your answer. Make sure it’s built on the solid foundation of Jesus life, words, and relationship with you. Make sure it’s in the context of relationship with that person. Give your answer, plant a seed, and then allow God to do the heavy lifting.